The Mather Homestead was built by Deacon Joseph Mather, a deacon in Middlesex Parish, in 1778 during the Revolutionary War. The Mather family is traced back to Lowton, Lancaster, England 1596. Over nearly two and a half centuries, the home was kept within the Mather family, passed down through seven generations.
Joseph Wakeman Mather inherited the homestead from his father, Joseph Mather, Jr.. He built a barn on the property but lived most of the time in Brooklyn before moving to San Francisco to develop his business and raise his family. His only son, Stephen Tyng Mather, inherited the house including 22 acres which stretched over the Norwalk town line in 1907. Stephen Mather used the home during vacations while he spent time out West, making his mark on our country by founding and as first Director of the National Park Service.
The house again passed to Stephen Mather's only daughter, Bertha Floy Mather McPherson, who inherited the house in 1930 when he died. She was one of the first female architects in Connecticut and a charter member of the Darien Historical Society. She designed the house across the street (Brookside Road) for a relative. McPherson raised her three children, Stephen, Jane and Anne, in the home. They continue to reside close to Darien.
The home is considered one of the finest examples of 18th century architecture, a wood frame structure with two stories plus a basement and attic. The home's chimney, originally providing warmth and a means to cook food, is at the center of the home. The original structure included a kitchen with the largest of the fireplaces, plus a dining room and parlor, both with fireplaces. Over time, a modern kitchen was added. The upstairs included two rooms in the front and a large unfinished space in the rear which was converted into bedrooms and a bathroom during the 19th century. Stephen Mather made changes to the house after he inherited it in 1906; he gave the house a more Colonial Revival appearance. In 1927, based on designs by architect Thomas Harlan Ellett, he added a porch on the side and a two story addition to the rear, and added the portico over the main entrance. The interior of the main block retained its original character through these changes, but the old kitchen space was converted into a living room. He also added a sunken garden, a caretaker's cottage (replaced later by a guest house) and a carriage barn. Today, the property consists of six acres with the original residence, a detached garage, a guest house and a barn.
The original furnishings, family heirlooms, masonry, woodwork and more have been preserved. Please check back soon for more about the treasures within the Mather Homestead!
The home became a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Several years ago, two open fields at the corners of Stephen Mather Road and Brookside Road were conveyed to the Darien Land Trust to be maintained as open fields. In 2017, the Mather Homestead deemed a "Protected Town Landmark" and donated by the McPherson family to The Mather Homestead Foundation will preserve the property and operate a museum.